Tuesday, January 27, 2015

SOUTH CAROLINA: Another TEc Harassment Lawsuit

No, not a lawsuit over a case of harassment, but a case of harassment by lawsuit.  That's what this is about.  And it is so totally ridiculous!  The lower court in South Carolina is already in the process of deciding the entire matter of whether the Diocese of South Carolina, which voted to disaffiliate from the Episcopal Church at its convention in 2012, could legally do so.  If, in fact, that disaffiliation was legal, then, obviously, the Diocese that left has a right to go on regarding Mark Lawrence as its bishop and to use whatever trademarks, titles, etc. that the court allows in its decision.

This appeal to a federal court, alleging that Bp. Lawrence is engaging in false advertizing!!! by continuing to call himself the Bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina is precisely the kind of thing that will be settled by the state court's decision, when Judge Goodstein issues it.   The Episcopal Church, fearing it is going to lose in the state court, is simply trying to preempt that decision by appealing to federal courts.  The US District Court in Charleston rightly recognized that the matter in question was going to be covered in the state court's decision and refused to take jurisdiction in the case.  We need to pray that the US Court of Appeals in Richmond sees the matter the same way.

One might wish that the leadership of the Episcopal Church would come to grips with reality.  The people of the Diocese of South Carolina voted by an overwhelming majority to leave the Episcopal Church.  Any church bureaucracy that would try to force its will on a Diocese where the majority of people have said they no longer want to be affiliated is manifestly evil.  They are just trying to suck the life out of the Diocese of South Carolina (and the other dioceses they are suing) by bleeding them dry through lawsuits.  (That's just my opinion, of course. But this kind of continued pernicious evil from the Episcopal Church's leadership has been going on long enough that it just makes you wonder what it will take to finally drive a stake through the vampire's heart.)

The allegation that this is merely a case of "Bp. Lawrence and Bishop Lawrence and other diocesan officials announcing they had 'withdrawn' from The Episcopal Church" is simply male bovine excrement!!!  This is not some unilateral action by Bp. Lawrence and other diocesan officials--it was a well-considered decision by the Diocesan Convention of South Carolina--a decision reaffirmed by a subsequent convention--and further affirmed by the congregations who voted that they wished to remain with the Diocese headed by Bp. Lawrence.  The state court, where the case has been heard, will cover the legality of all this in its decision.

Rather than await that decision, TEc is frivolously snipping around the edges, desperately hoping for some federal court decision that can derail their anticipated defeat in the state courts of South Carolina.  And, they--by which I mean primarily the Presiding Bishop and her chancellor--don't seem to care how many millions of dollars of the Episcopal Church's money they spend, since they figure they can outspend any parish or diocese that dares to contend with them. 

Oral arguments before the court in Richmond, VA, are scheduled to be heard tomorrow, Wednesday, January 28.  Please pray.

[The following press release has been issued by the Episcopal Church in South Carolina (headed by Bp. vonRosenberg) and reflects their perspective.] 

From here:

SOUTH CAROLINA: Oral arguments set in federal court appeal

January 27, 2015

Oral arguments are scheduled to be heard on Wednesday in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Richmond, Va. in vonRosenberg v. Lawrence, seeking to have the case sent back to U.S. District Court in Charleston to be decided on its merits.

Thomas S. Tisdale Jr., Chancellor of The Episcopal Church in South Carolina, will present Bishop Charles vonRosenberg's case before a three-judge panel at the Lewis F. Powell Jr. Courthouse in Richmond.  Twenty minutes are allotted to each side for oral arguments and rebuttals.  No immediate ruling is expected.

The appeal focuses on the issue of false advertising under the federal Lanham Act.  Bishop vonRosenberg is the only bishop recognized by The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion as bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina.  Mark Lawrence, by continuing to represent himself as bishop of the diocese, is committing false advertising, according to a brief filed with the appeals court in April.

The appeal asks the judges to rule that the District Court in Charleston erred in abstaining from jurisdiction on the false-advertising claim, and send the case back to the lower court to be decided on its merits.  It also asks the appeals court to award a preliminary injunction and stop Bishop Lawrence from representing himself as bishop of the diocese.

In 2012, Bishop Lawrence and other diocesan officials announced they had "withdrawn" from The Episcopal Church.  The Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church accepted his renunciation, and he was removed from the ordained ministry of the church.  The Presiding Bishop then called a special Diocesan Convention in January 2013.  There, delegates elected Bishop vonRosenberg, who is recognized by The Episcopal Church as the one and only rightful bishop of the local diocese.

"Despite his renunciation and removal from office, Bishop Lawrence continues to hold himself out as the Bishop of the Diocese, and continues to make other false representations of fact..." the brief says. Bishop Lawrence's actions interfere with Bishop vonRosenberg's right to communicate with people and carry out his duties as the sole bishop of the diocese, creating confusion and causing irreparable damage, according to the appeal.

The trademark issues involved in vonRosenberg v. Lawrence are not being raised in the appeal.  When U.S. District Judge C. Weston Houck refused to hear the case, he dismissed the trademark issues without prejudice, noting that similar issues are part of a state lawsuit filed by the breakaway group.  Judge Houck's order left open the possibility that those issues still could be brought to federal court if the state courts do not properly resolve them.

The state court case went to trial in Dorchester County in July 2014 and is awaiting a decision from Circuit Court Judge Diane S. Goodstein.

1 comment:

TJ McMahon said...

One wonders how long it will be before ELCA files suit in Milwaukee against the Wisconsin Synod for use of the word "Lutheran."